Don’t fear customers’ reality


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Great ideas fail for all sorts of unexpected reasons. But failures can be anticipated and even avoided by ‘live testing’ during the development phase. For the best results, get development teams out of the controlled comfort of meeting rooms and test ideas in a messy and unpredictable world.

Test ideas before implementing them
From simple experience prototypes to full-scale service simulations – there are different ways for organisations to try out ideas with customers. Involving staff in testing can save time and money that is otherwise often wasted by discovering problems and opportunities only after launch.

The greatest enemy is fear of reality
The greatest enemy of good product or service design is fear of reality. The world in a lab, the meeting rooms or in front of a spreadsheet is controllable. The real world is brutal, messy and unpredictable.

To find out whether an idea has the right to live, it needs to be tested in the mess of the real world. When concepts are tested in the context where they will eventually be used, tests often result into amazing sources of learning and inspiration.

Don't fear customers' reality By engaging customers directly to understand why they are experiencing certain problems, the root cause can be identified based on the customers’ perspective.

Tackle problems early
Top management can quickly kill an initiative that significantly challenges established systems and structures across the business.

For example, a suggestion for an invoice that makes better sense for customers can imply a redesign of core IT systems. A development team engaged in reducing invoice-related call center traffic may not realise their suggestion for improvement requires an IT systems change. When issues are revealed too late, resources will be wasted, and often completely lost.

The real world is brutal, messy and unpredictable.

Don’t fear management
It pays off to test ideas early with senior managers. Generally, senior managers are good at identifying solutions that impact the business beyond what’s achievable.

It is important to test visual scenarios of use and tangible solutions. These tests clarify the big picture beyond metrics and they engage and inspire those involved in testing. Successful tests that involve senior managers often result in stronger management support.

Don’t fear staff
Testing new products, processes or services with staff is easy to set up and frequently leads to great insights.

Letting a sales person test a new product idea with a handful of customers is likely to result in invaluable feedback – and it only takes a few hours! Testing a new routine with call center staff for a day helps to provide a clear direction on how well a routine will work on scale.

Engaging staff in early trials dramatically reduces the need for costly re-working of a solution close to and after launch. Early staff engagement increases eagerness to adopt and deliver the change in the market.

Don’t fear customers
Customers want a product or service that delights and satisfies their needs – businesses want to offer such products and services. For this reason, early concept testing with customers pays off!

The best tests are conducted in the real-life context where customers will engage with a product or service – not in test labs or focus groups.

Real life testing allows businesses to sort out niggles and problems that only appear in the messy reality of everyday life – long before major development costs are incurred. Done right, testing will give you realistic confidence that customers will value the product or service from the day you launch!

Topic_dont-fear-reality Test concepts in the dialogue between customers and staff. It will prove whether it will work in practice.

Learn, validate and prove
Rough prototypes quickly enable development teams to learn and improve concepts – in collaboration with senior management, staff and customers. High-fidelity prototypes, with a limited number of participants, can validate that assumptions are right. Pilots involving customers and staff can prove that a concept will succeed in the real world.

Though ultimate proof of success comes after launching into a market – real-life testing saves cost and time and significantly improves the chances of success.

Real life testing builds a culture of innovation
Don’t be afraid to test your ideas with top management, customers and colleagues. Testing provides feedback that helps improve ideas for new products and services. Engaging and involving the business in trialling concepts and ideas with customers breeds a more innovative organisational culture.

Real life testing saves costs
The only way to make sure an idea will succeed in the complexity of the real world is to test is in the real world. Testing ideas and concepts does not necessarily require a huge effort. The benefits of testing are significant – saved costs and time and confidence in concepts that work from day 1!

Ben Reason
Ben Reason is a service design consultant with 20 years experience with a wide range of public, and private sector organisations. As a founder of Livework he leads the London studio and team on projects that bring a customer view to major challenges and opportunities in industries ranging from healthcare and financial services, to public transport.


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